The first of the new iPhone reviews have hit the Internet and kiosks, for those of you who are storing up combustible materials for your fireplaces ahead of the winter season. And, for a firm whose critics have been bemoaning the end-of-innovation era for a good two years now, they are, on the whole, golden—rather like one of the colorways of the iPhone 5S.
Anand Lal Shimpi of AnandTech got his up first and it's a whopper, so you might just want to skip to the conclusion. Walter Mossberg called it "the best smartphone on the market" due to its hardware and software. (The Wall Street Journal and AllThingsD columnist did, however, bemoan Apple's second-rate keyboard, comparing it unfavorably to how Android devices allow users to choose third-party keyboards if they so wish.)
Daring Fireball, aka Dave Gruber, put the 5S through some benchmark tests and, after giving the fingerprint sensor the thumbs-up, said its processing speeds were faster than his five-year-old top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, adding somewhat gnomically, "In your f***ing pocket." Engadget says the firm "somehow managed to appeal to both the geek (64-bit support, M7 coprocessor, Touch ID) and the average Joe (a fresh, colorful iOS 7), all while laying the groundwork for the company's future."
David Pogue of the New York Times claims we can draw three truisms from these two phones: "Lesson one: Apple may have set its own bar for innovation too high ... Lesson two: The smartphone is mature ... Lesson three: If we’re reaching a point of diminishing returns in hardware breakthroughs, the software breakthroughs are only just getting under way."
Pogue finishes off by admitting something else that we all know but are sometimes too immature (and partisan) to admit. Most top-grade smartphones do all—and more—that we want and need. "The iPhone is no longer the only smartphone that will keep you delighted for the length of your two-year contract," he writes, "but it’s still among the few that will."
Apple's cheaper model, the iPhone 5C, has also had its report card back. While Gruber called the already popular 5C an iPhone 5 on the inside, albeit with a superior antenna and front-facing camera, and said all praise or criticism should really only be about "fashion, branding and marketing ... The 5C ... is purely an emotional play—and, I think, a winning one." CNET's headline summed up the more affordable phone succinctly: "A cheaper iPhone that doesn't cut corners."
Of course, cometh the new hardware, cometh the new software—the much heralded "flat" design of iOS 7 is now visible and almost tangible to us mere mortals. "A major makeover that takes some getting used to, but ultimately delivers," is TechCrunch's verdict. Elsewhere, it is "spectacular."
Overall, Apple will be pleased with the first wave of reviews—it should be added that pretty much all of these technology writers, while not rabid fanboys of the firm, have a generally sunny disposition towards products that come out of the super-secret design labs at Cupertino. But then the firm has, for more than 15 years, constantly set the standard for what people expect from their computing devices, from the iMac, through the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. And that is a gold standard that is not going to go away just yet.
[Image: Flickr user jakub_hla]